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Building Bridges with Families: The Power of Reciprocity . Equity Forum Equity Alliance at ASU Beth Harry Professor, Special Education University of Miami March 1, 2011 (Adapted from Kalyanpur & Harry, Culture in Special Education: Building Reciprocal Relationships with Familie s).

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Building Bridges with Families: The Power of Reciprocity


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    1. Building Bridges with Families: The Power of Reciprocity Equity Forum Equity Alliance at ASU Beth Harry Professor, Special Education University of Miami March 1, 2011 (Adapted from Kalyanpur & Harry, Culture in Special Education: Building Reciprocal Relationships with Families)

    2. Central Assumption: Culture Pervades Everything We Do • Cultural beliefs underlie • legal requirements (e.g., IDEA built on principles of individualism and equity) • knowledge base (e.g., science, not spirituality, explains and treats disability) • practice (e.g., goal setting, interaction style, beliefs about “good parenting”

    3. Cultural Underpinnings of Special Education Law • IDEA AS A CULTURAL STATEMENT • Individualism: choice, equity • Scientific explanations of disability • Professional vs. everyday knowledge • CONTRASTING CULTURAL TRADITIONS • Collective concepts of self: group needs • Spiritual interpretations of disability • Conflict: professional/everyday knowledge

    4. Cultural Reciprocity • cultural reciprocity: respecting and learning about other cultures while sharing information with families regarding American culture • key is cultural self-awareness

    5. The Cultural Reciprocity Process • Step 1: Reflect on personal biases and assumptions driving your own recommendations • Step 2: Invite, question, listen to parents’ perspective • Step 3: Explain service provider’s perspective • Step 4: Identify common ground and develop collaborative goals

    6. 3 Parent-Professional Conflicts Resulting from Cultural Differences • parents in denial: won’t face facts! • no parent participation: they don’t care about children’s education! • problem comes from home: it’s cultural!

    7. Complaint # I: “They’re in Denial” FOUR reasons: • more intimate and more nuanced knowledge of the child • cultural definitions of what’s “normal” • spiritual vs. physical interpretations • individual vs. group identity within families • “in disagreement” rather than “denial”

    8. Disagreement #1: Intimate Parental Knowledge • parents have more intimate and nuanced knowledge of child’s skills than school personnel • traits and abilities may not be displayed at school: importance of context • professionals often quick to discount parent reports • remember parents know child better than you do!

    9. Disagreement # 2: Cultural Definitions of Disability • disagreement between parents and professionals related to different cultural definitions of disability • different parameters of “normalcy” based on cultural/SES expectations • cultural change over time

    10. Disagreement # 3: Physical vs. Spiritual Definitions • parents may interpret the cause of child’s condition as spiritual rather than physical • physical condition reflects spiritual meaning • western belief in science emphasizes physical/medical causes and treatments

    11. Disagreement # 4: Individual vs. Group Constructions of Identity • American individualism leads to interpretation that disability belongs entirely to individual, not family • many other groups: a collective sense of identity results in parents seeking explanations of differences within recent or past family history

    12. Complaint #2: They Won’t Come to Meetings! Four reasons: • built-in conflict between call for collaboration and belief in professional “expertise” • histories of alienation • alienating professional language • alienating interaction processes

    13. Reason #1: Role Expectations – Professional/Family Views • professional training reflects belief in expertise in diagnosis and treatment • difficult for professionals to recognize parents as experts with their children • belief in scientific knowledge vs. everyday knowledge • democratic vs. hierarchical expecations

    14. Reason #2: Historical Issues • history of exclusion of African Americans from mainstream education, and of integration into unwelcoming school systems, resulted in deep mistrust of school authorities • school authorities have responsibility of building trust, not assuming that it has been earned

    15. Reason #3: Professional Spoken Language • objectified”: ”service delivery system” • medicalized: “auditory, visual, perceptual” (listening, looking, interpreting) • abstracted: “manipulatives” (toys, materials) • incomprehensible jargon • translation issues

    16. Power of the Written Word • reinforces value of professional pronouncements about children • written findings in reports reinforce impressions of validity • process of reification: profile of deficiency • parents with low literacy/limited English proficiency find school letters intimidating

    17. Reason #4: Participation Structures • manner of conducting conferences often contradicts ideal of participation • studies of parent participation at conferences show clear hierarchy: • parent vs. professional introductions • order, style, and timing of reports • parent input limited or not invited till end • disrespectful, inattentive interactions • no translators or poor translation

    18. Complaint # 3: “It Comes from the Home!” • Three discrepant views: • family structure, roles and authority patterns • family interactions: enmeshment vs. disengagement (individuality vs. collectivism) • independence, work, and individuality

    19. View #1: Family Structure, Roles, Authority • mainstream model of family structure in America not a reality for many • nuclear family (“intact” family) increasingly rare in America • focus on “risk” • little recognition of “resilience”

    20. View #2: Family Structure and Interactions • assumption: family interaction style should reflect American ideal of independence and individuality • theories of ideal family interaction: balance “enmeshment” and “disengagement” • assumptions about authority patterns and discipline practices

    21. View #3: “Independence” • a key goal on IFSP/IEP e.g., breast or bottle feeding • transition goals from adolescence to adulthood • independence vs. interdependence • friends who are not family members • training for supported employment

    22. CONCLUSIONS • does not matter whether we agree with unfamiliar parental views • what matters is that we recognize our views are reflections of our culture • so are the views of the parents! • remembering this, we can listen with respect, without negative judgment that shows on our faces and in our voices

    23. Daily Cultural Clashes • Subtle, implicit, unacknowledged • Tone of voice • Facial expression • Disagreement interpreted as denial • Belief that parents don’t care • Detrimental home environments • No first-hand knowledge of the home

    24. Parents’ Responses • refusal to respond to invitations • say “yes” • silence

    25. FINAL WORD • Next time you hear yourself or a colleague utter one of these exclamations, STOP and say to yourself or your friend: • Denial? Or disagreement? • They don’t come because they don’t care? Or because they don’t feel needed or respected? • Say, “so their behavior is “cultural?” So is mine!